[UPDATED] President Signs Stimulus Bill, Allowing Telehealth for Hospice Recertification

President Donald Trump has signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. Among numerous other provisions, the massive bill will allow hospice providers to conduct face-to-face recertification visits via telehealth and suspend the practice of 2% sequestration of hospice payments by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation this morning, following approval by the Senate.

The stimulus bill, titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES ACT, will finance government assistance to individuals, families and businesses that were hard hit by the economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19.

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“I’m profoundly grateful that both parties came together to provide relief for American workers and families in this hour of need,” the president said in a press briefing following the Senate’s passage of the bill.

Hospice providers and industry groups have been calling for Congress and CMS to allow them to perform face-to-face encounters since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) began recommending social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

The bill, which will almost certainly be enacted, would end sequestration for the duration of the national emergency. CMS in 2014 began reducing payments to hospice providers by 2% across the board.

The stimulus package also contains $100 billion to support diagnosis, treatment and response for cases of the novel coronavirus as well as $3.5 billion to help cover child care expenses for essential workers, including those in the health care field.

“America’s hospice providers deeply appreciate Congress’s swift and effective efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis,” a coalition of hospice organizations said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Hospice providers stand ready to continue to offer expert advice on how to support to patients and families in the community during this public health crisis, and we look forward to continued collaboration with Congress to ensure quality serious-illness and end-of-life care for all Americans, and a robust Medicare Hospice Benefit for years to come.”

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, National Partnership for Hospice Innovation, the Visiting Nurse Associations of America/ElevatingHOME, and LeadingAge comprised the coalition.

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